Sunday, May 6, 2012

Xaverian coach not surprised by North Bergen sanctions after recruitment of former player

Joe DeSiena didn’t need an investigation to tell him North Bergen football coach Vincent Ascolese had done something wrong.

“For a coach to approach a kid and try to convince him to remove himself from his high school and attend a different school, he’s already unethical,” the Xaverian head coach said. “So no, it doesn’t surprise me.”

The Star Ledger reported Friday that Ascolese, who coached at North Bergen for 39 years, recruited two key players as part of its 2011 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state championship run during his final season. The program will be put on two-year probation by the state governing body. One of those players was former Xaverian receiver/defensive back Denzell Leitch. It was reported that he and Eric McMullen were put up in low-rent apartments by Ascolese next to the coach's home.

Denis Gostev

Xaverian head coach Joe DeSiena believes former North Bergen coach Vincent Ascolese was unethical just for approaching former Clipper Denzell Leitch to leave.

“Forget football,” DeSiena said. “You are taking him away from the teachers who know him. You take him away from his guidance counselors. You are changing his curriculum, changing his environment. That’s a major change for a kid to go through, especially if you are talking about a kid like Denzell who was learning disabled.”

It was reported that in the locker room following a thrilling, last second, 14-13 win over Montclair for his eighth state title, Ascolese approached Leitch’s father Ingram about back-rent he owed. A few days later Leitch was told he had to leave. Leitch was reportedly living alone and not with his father like Ascolese told the school. Rent was as low as $300 a month.

“That’s why he chose a more convenient route to stay in Jersey,” DeSiena said.

DeSiena remembers the summer two years ago when Leitch, who played as a sophomore on the varsity, unexpectedly did not return. He went through all the offseason and spring workouts and then did not show up for training camp. The coach said he was told that he went to some combine, ran a really good time and Ascolese approached Leitch, a New Jersey native, and offered him room and board. He had been traveling on the PATH train to Xaverian every day.

Leith was supposed to be a major part of the Clippers success and a group of upper classman that included Tushaun Plummer, Laray Smith, Zach Kearney, Sean Binckes and Rocky Iannacone. Xaverian went 7-3 last season and reached the CHSFL Class AA semifinals.

“Next thing I know, he was gone,” DeSiena said. “I didn’t even get a phone call. I’m thinking more along the lines of how do I get in touch with this kid so I can rip into him for missing the first practice.”

According to, the 5-foot- 7, 150-pound Leitch runs the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and has a 31-inch vertical leap. He has interest from Penn State, UConn, Rutgers, Syracuse and Buffalo. DeSiena feels it shouldn’t matter what program a kid is at, moving after two seasons can often do more harm than good.

“It’s a very tough situation for a kid to succeed and make it through there without hitting speed bumps and it’s unethical,” DeSiena said. “Maybe I am not as good a coach as him, but I would never do anything like that if kid is settled in at a school. I want to see him succeed.”

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